Slick Con Man Eric Stanton (Andrews) finds himself in the small California town of Walton, on the coast between L.A. and San Francisco. His new racket in this town is selling tickets to a psychic show put on by Professor Madley (John Carradine), who claims he can speak to the dead. They specifically advertise for the "appearance" of Walton's former mayor, Abraham Mills, much to the chagrin of his two daughters, June (Faye) and Clara (Anne Revere).
Meanwhile, Eric tries to romance waitress Stella (Darnell), whom he meets in Pop's Cafe. But she wants more than a handsome man, so to get money to marry Stella, Eric begins to charm June Mills solely for her large fortune. He eventually marries her to solidify his theft, but matters complicate when Stella is murdered.
With tough ex-NYC cop Mark Judd (Charles Bickford) investigating the case and Eric being the prime suspect, he has to run away, but finds a surprising ally in June who motivates him to solve Stella's murder.
Tropes found in this work:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Pop to Stella.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: June loves Eric so much that she's willing to overlook the fact that he married her for her inheritance, so he could be with another woman.
- It does help that he is Dana Andrews.
- Anti-Hero: A Con Man finds love after screwing many people over.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: June to Eric.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Mark Judd. A former NYC policeman—who's staying in California for his health—he's asked to investigate Stella's murder by the local police but has trouble solving the case. Turns out that he was kicked out of his precinct, because he enjoyed beating up his suspects a little too much. Also, he murdered Stella.
- Betty and Veronica: Good-girl, intelligent June as the Betty, with sultry, snarky Stella as the Veronica.
- The Charmer: The handsome Eric can twist almost anyone around his little finger. Funnily enough, the woman that he wanted so much, Stella, quickly gets bored of his antics, whereas June, the woman he wants to dispose of as soon as possible, falls hard for him.
- The Con: The whole town is swindled by Eric, the Professor, and his associate, and then Eric sets his eyes on June Mills.
- Con Man: Eric does two big cons: helping the Professor sell tickets for his talk with the dead, and romancing June for her money.
- Cute Bookworm: June is quite vulnerable, making her easy prey for Eric.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Eric Stanton has been drifting for a long time.
- Destructive Romance: Oh boy, all the stalking and possessiveness you could ever ask for, between Stella and Eric.
- Establishing Character Moment: Stella stomps in to the cafe after being AWOL for a few days with a man, takes off her shoes, and eats Eric's burger.
- Femme Fatale: Stella. First she agrees to marry Eric, but only if he can afford to give her a home, but it turns out she was two-timing him with Dave Atkins, and was going to marry him instead.
- She also has no problem stealing from the cash register in Pop's Cafe.
- Film Noir: From the classic era.
- Happy Ending: Surprisingly, a fairly happy ending for a Film Noir.
- Hidden Depths: Eric knows his life has been a waste so far, but he decides to change with the help of June he finds out that Mark Judd killed Stella, and decides to give his marriage with June a go.
- Horrible Judge of Character: June Mills falls for handsome snake, Eric Stanton.
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: How June feels when Eric takes pains to be in a relationship with her.
- Insecure Love Interest: After everything he's done, Eric can't believe that June really loves him.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Clara is willing to overlook everything sketchy about Eric, if he makes June happy.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Eric softens up near the end of the film with the help of June.
- Killer Cop: Somethings fishy about Mark Judd. Turns out he did kill Stella because she never chose him, instead planning to run away with Dave Atkins.
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Eric falls for Stella, a Femme Fatale who doesnt give a hoot about him, and they dont really seem to like each other very much.
- Love at First Sight: June with Eric.
- Love Martyr: June seems set up to be one of these, but she turns out to have genuine fortitude and strength of character that sees her through safely.
- Old Maid: Clara Mills.
- Police Brutality: Judd puts on special gloves when he tries to beat a confession out of Dave Atkins, Stellas boyfriend.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The Mills women. Clara lost bonds, and most of their lands to a John Martin, who ran away with the money. June is set to inherit $25, 000 dollars, and blindly marries the first man that she's seriously attracted to, who turns out to be a Con Man.
- Sexless Marriage: Eric spends his wedding night walking the streets and meeting up with Stella the night shes murdered.
- Stalker with a Crush: A fairly dark version: Eric is obsessed with Stella, as are many men, and always wants to check up on her to make sure shes not cheating on him. He waits outside her apartment solely for this reason.
- Sunshine Noir: Not exactly, but it does mostly take place in a coastal small town near the beach (with a couple scenes in San Francisco), instead of a murky NYC-esque city.
- Wrongly Accused: Stellas murder makes Eric the prime suspect since hes the drifter who no one really knows and didnt spend his wedding night with June.